Fort Myers Beach Braces for Irma

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Update #6:  September 9, 2017, 5pm

The streets of Fort Myers Beach were mostly vacant Saturday afternoon as the last evacuees headed to off-island shelter with friends, families or at Lee County shelters. Some stayed, willing to risk the winds, rain and storm surge of Irma, against the advice of Lee County Emergency Operations and local public safety officials. Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on the island making sure that everyone knew about the evacuation order.

At a press conference at 4pm Saturday, Lee County Manager Roger Dejarlais urged residents to take the danger of the forecasted storm surge seriously, adding that people have not seen the kind of water inundation that Irma will bring to SWFL.

“People will be shocked and surprised at how 10-15 feet of water over land looks – that’s taller than a single story building,” Dejarlais said. “That 10-15 feet is not over high tide level, it’s over land.”

This is a dangerous storm.”

He urged anyone who lives along rivers, or low-lying areas or areas that flood with a high tide or heavy rain, to leave. If leaving is impossible, residents are urged to shelter on the 2nd floor. If they do not have a 2nd floor and they live in Zone A, they must leave to escape storm surge. If all Lee County shelters fill up, they will be asked to head inland or across the state. Lee County is using all the shelters it can and they are filling up fast.

Wind Sunday – Surge Monday

Tropical and Hurricane force winds will arrive Sunday and last most of the day. The threat of storm surge will peak after the winds have begun dying down on Monday.

Evacuation

Lee County expanded mandatory evacuations on Saturday morning to include some Zone B areas: South of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers and South of Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

Current areas with mandatory evacuation in Lee County include: All of the barrier islands Boca Grande/Gasparilla, Cayo Costa, Useppa, Cabbage Key, North Captiva, Captiva, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, San Carlos Island & Bonita Beach); Cape Coral west of Burnt Store Rd and south of Cape Coral Parkway, east of Del Prado to Viscaya Parkway; areas of Iona west of US 41 and south of Maple Drive, San Carlos Park west of US 41, Estero west of US 41, north of the Estero River. Bonita Springs communities along Estero Bay and in the Imperial River Basin and North Fort Myers along the Caloosahatchee.

Shelters

As of 4pm Saturday, Lee County had only four shelters with any space left, including:

-Germain Arena at 11000 Everglades Parkway in Estero

-Mirror Lakes Elementary School, 525 Charwood Ave. South, Lehigh Acres

-North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, 1856 Arts Way, North Fort Myers

-Veterans Park Recreation Center, 49 Homestead Rd, Lehigh Acres

Ten other Lee County shelters were full as of Saturday afternoon. Once all shelters are full in Lee County, county officials advise evacuees to head east to avoid the danger of storm surge. As of mid-afternoon Saturday, over 22,000 people were sheltered in 14 shelters in Lee County. Collier County has reported over 15,000 in 30 shelters.

Pets are welcome at all shelters. Evacuees are reminded to bring crates or at least have pets on leashes.

All LeeTran bus service ended at 3pm Saturday.

 Bridges

There are no plans to block or close bridges during the storm, but motorists should be aware that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has warned motorists to not drive over bridges once the sustained winds reach 40 mph.

Public Safety

Once wind speeds have reached 40mph, public safety crews will be pulled off the street. No emergency calls will be answered. When the wind speed drops, Public Safety personnel will determine the order in which calls are answered.

Warnings & Watches

Fort Myers Beach, Lee County and all of SWFL were under a variety of watches and warnings Saturday as the storm slowed and weakened to a Category 3 as it traveled along the northern Cuban coast. It is expected to regain strength as it enters the Florida Straits and makes the northern turn toward the Gulf Coast. Public Safety officials have expressed concern about the storm surge that will follow the eye of the storm as it passes our area on Sunday. A Hurricane Warning remains in effect with expected Tropical Storm force winds from Sunday morning through Monday afternoon. Hurricane force winds are expected Sunday afternoon through Monday morning. Peak wind forecast is for 85-105mph with gusts to 130 mph. Rainfall of 12-18 inches is expected with local amounts higher, leading to a Flash Flood Watch until 8am Monday. Tornados are possible as the outer bands approach the area. SWFL is under a Tornado Watch until midnight Sunday. A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for the entire coastline of SWFL. Fort Myers Beach may see over 10-15 feet of storm surge over high tide.

Trash Collection

Lee County Solid Waste has suspended all regular household collections on Monday, Sept. 11 until further notice. Collections will resume as soon as possible.

After the Storm:

Island Re-Entry

Island residents and business owners with Town issued FMB Re-Entry Passes are reminded that access to the island will occur once public safety and town officials have conducted a survey of the island and determined it is safe to re-enter. Watch the Town’s website, fmbgov.com for updates.

Trash Collection

Lee County Solid Waste has suspended all regular household collections on Monday, Sept. 11 until further notice. Collections will resume as soon as possible.

Lee Offices Closed

The following Lee County government offices will be closed Monday: BoCC departments, Supervisor of Elections, Tax Collector, Clerk of Courts and Property Appraiser. The 20th Judicial Circuit Court, State Attorney’s Office and Public Defender Office (Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.)

Helpful Links

Lee Emergency app:  LeeAlert app

Red Cross app

Emergency Operations Center: www.LeeEOC.com

Town of Fort Myers Beach:  www.fmbgov.com

Florida Power & Light: www.fpl.com

FEMA:  www.fema.gov

United Way Help Line: Dial 211 on your phone

Florida Emergency Management: www.FloridaDisaster.org

Island Sand Paper: FortMyersBeach.news

Hurricane Irma will take her best shot at SWFL on Sunday. The Island Sand Paper will be sharing information on post storm clean-up, debris handling and more once the storm has moved through our area.

Stay safe Fort Myers Beach, wherever you are!

 

Missy Layfield